A heavy snowfall on Saturday afternoon didn’t keep the crowds away from the 52nd annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.
EMSF chair Drew McGovern estimates 60,000 to 62,000 showed up to take in the festivities, slightly down from last year’s 65,000.
“Overall we’re happy. We had concerns because of the weather, but I was sitting there yesterday thinking about it and I think we got really lucky. Thursday it was pouring rain the whole day and if we had that rain on Friday or Saturday that would have been horrible for us,” he posited.
Friday was decent for setup and in the wee hours of Saturday morning it was snowing, but then it held off until the afternoon.
“Last year was a slow start as well. It was cold in the morning, but then it got warmed up and it was sunny the whole day and everyone came out,” McGovern said.
But when the snow started coming down halfway through the day this year, a lot of people with children headed home.
The festival sold sausages along with the pancakes for the first time and they never expected them to be such a hit. They were sold out by noon.
“We had 4,000 patties and we were surprised how many people wanted the sausage with their pancakes. We have to reevaluate what we’re going to order. That’s from Stemmler’s in Heidelberg and people seemed to recognize that name and wanted it for their breakfast,” McGovern said.
Some of the vendors in the mall on Arthur Street sold out of their food, too, which is a sign there was a big crowd.
He says they usually sell around 6,000 breakfasts, with 3,000 of those being single-pancake portions, and 3,000 being doubles, which works out to 9,000 pancakes sold and consumed. And then there’s the syrup.
“You’re looking at over 400 litres of syrup that got used at the pancake tent. How much they sold on the mall, I haven’t a clue. How much is sold by the roadside guys, I haven’t a clue. We kind of like that. We don’t have anything to do with the roadside vendors, but in a way it kind of adds to the flavour of the festival,” McGovern said.
Also new this year was the maple syrup competition, which they’re definitely going to continue next year. Maple Tap Farm won after being judged against 11 other syrups. They received the festival’s syrup order for the pancake tent and got the first booth on the south side of the mall.
“We’re hoping it’s going to at least double that number of samples for next year. I think the word’s getting out the winner kind of gets handled quite nicely and they get their name out there,” McGovern said.
Feedback has been largely positive from people who attended. He said one person did mention they missed the craft show, which was cancelled this year. The festival decided not to continue it this year because not many people were visiting it. It also was becoming increasingly expensive to rent the gym from the high school.
“I used to joke that the people went around the mall, went to the WMC, they got on the wagon, and as they drive by the high school the husband sees the sign ‘craft show’ and he on purpose says ‘hey honey’ and points to the other side of the wagon while it goes by,” McGovern laughs.
They brought in the quilting ladies and put them in the WMC instead. They’re not sure that’s the right spot for them, so they’re going to consider a different location for next year.
As for any complaints about the vendors in the outdoor mall on Arthur Street, McGovern says every stall can’t be selling something maple related.
“You probably notice how many people walk around with a big turkey leg and a pickle on a stick. That turkey leg, I think it was bigger than my leg. It kind of works but then again it’s a good question, to try to stay true to our maple syrup festival. We can’t have every second vendor selling apple fritters or maple something. We have to open up the variety. People were so upset last year that the cinnamon bun guy didn’t show. We had calls two weeks ago, they weren’t going to come to the festival if the cinnamon buy guy wasn’t there. We were happy to tell them ‘oh no he’s paid his money and he’s planning to come in,’” McGovern said.
As per usual, some 2,000 volunteers and the committee of 26 made the festival possible.
“There’s something about the Elmira people. They don’t stand around waiting for someone to thank them. They just slip in and do their job and they slip out again. They’re not looking for a pat on the back. If we lost volunteers we’re done. We could not put that on without all these people helping,” McGovern said.
And if you’re already thinking about next year, the date’s been set.
“I’m not fooling, it’s April 1. I’ve already talked to the weather people and it’s going to be a nice, sunny day.”